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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Lent Is a Time to Meet Jesus—Again.

When I was going on my annual retreat this past December, an SND friend gave me a book saying, “You might enjoy this.” The book was The Diary of Jesus Christ by Bill Cain, SJ. I confess, I was not drawn to the title. I tend to avoid books that put a lot of words into Jesus’ mouth that aren’t in scripture. But I thanked my friend, and tucked it into my suitcase.

Two days into retreat, I thought I’d give the book a try. I saw that the forward was written by Greg Boyle, SJ, the author of Tattoos on the Heart, an incredible book. (I wrote about that book on my blog in 2013. You can access that blog by going to the search box in the upper right side panel and typing in “Tattoos on the Heart”). Then I read the first chapter of Cain’s book—and I was instantly and delightfully “blown away.” I’ll share the first chapter with you, and then say a few more things about the book.

In chapter one we meet Jesus (Joshua) as a nine-year-old boy. At that age, he says, he wanted to be a rabbi. His motivation, however, wasn’t too spiritual. “Carpentry looked like a lot of hard work,” he says. But there was a problem with his wish to be a rabbi: their particular village rabbi never looked happy. In fact, Jesus thinks the happiest man in the village is the baker named Osiris. Everyday he would carry a big yoke on his shoulders from which hung two large baskets filled with all kinds of breads. He went from house to house cheerfully peddling his breads. Osiris always made people laugh—especially the women, including Jesus’ mother, Mary.

The baker, though, was a foreigner, an Egyptian. Although he was treated decently most of the year, at Passover time, “he was looked upon with suspicion.” One day, Jesus asks him, “Osiris, why did you keep us in slavery?” He replies, “Do I look five hundred years old that I kept you in slavery?”

Jesus says, “You know what I mean. Why did your people keep my people in slavery?” The baker replies “bitterly”: “Go ask your God why he killed our children to set you free. Go ask if that was fair.”

The two of them sit side by side in silence for a while. That’s when Jesus realizes, “I had no future as a rabbi.” He says to Osiris, “I don’t think I’m a very good Jew. I don’t think I could believe in a God who kills children.”

And Osiris says, “Joshua, I don’t think I’m a very good Egyptian. I don’t want to be a part of any people that could keep slaves.”

(Photo by Vaibhav Jadhav – Pexels)

Again, silence. Then Osiris says, “Let’s not be sad. Put on the yoke and let’s sell the bread together.” Jesus dons the yoke and is shocked by how heavy it is. Osiris encourages him, “Once you sell the bread, it gets lighter.” And the two of them go through the village, “laughing and chatting” and selling bread.

The last two sentences in the chapter touched me deeply. Says Jesus: “That’s when I knew what I really wanted to be. A baker.” My mind instantly jumped ahead to images of Jesus telling the parable of the grain of wheat, comparing the Kingdom of God to yeast, feeding the thousands on the hillside, and breaking the bread at the Last Supper.

In this imaginative book we see Jesus interacting with his parents. Mary, a practical, down-to-earth woman, always sang songs to Jesus when he was growing up. One in particular he liked, a song about the mighty being being cast down from their thrones and the hungry being filled with good things. At twelve, Jesus sees people begging for food in the marketplace and is troubled. One day he gets an idea. He sings his mother’s song loud and clear, and people toss coins into his hat. With that money, he buys food for the hungry around him. But one day, a Roman soldier hears his song, picks him up, pins him against the wall, and demands to know, “Who wrote that song? Tell me who he is!” It is then that Jesus realizes how subversive his mother’s song was, how threatening to the mighty Romans who ruled his country. Later, when he gets home, he asks his mother, “Who are you?” And then adds, “Are you the Messiah?”

I loved Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. She is not Jesus’ lover (as some have portrayed her), but she is one of his best friends—and best advisors. It is she who helps Jesus select his twelve apostles. She knows men, she tells him, and warns him about Judas Iscariot and even Peter. But after Jesus picks the twelve, he senses that Mary is very upset about something. Later, and in private, he asks her if something is wrong. And then adds, “Are you angry that I didn’t choose you as one of the twelve?” She says, “I am angry that it didn’t cross your mind… And, to be fair, I am angry that it didn’t cross mine.”

(Photo by Tara Winstead – Pexels)

The book tells the familiar Gospel stories in fresh and imaginative ways. It offers new insights into who Jesus is and what it means to be his disciple in today’s world. I found myself saying, “This is the Jesus I want to know—and love better!” Lent is a good time to get to know Jesus better—by pondering the Gospels or maybe even a book that focuses on him. Besides Cain’s book, I suggest these: Jesus: A Gospel Portrait by Donald Senior; Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg; Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI; He Was One of Us by Rien Poorvliet; The Catholic Companion to Jesus by Sr. Kathleen Glavich; Jesus: A Gospel Portrait by Henri Nouwen; and the book I’m going to read this Lent Consider Jesus by Elizabeth Johnson.

Do you have any suggestions for meeting Jesus again this Lent—any books, films, music, poetry, art? I invite you to share some of the things that have helped you “to meet Jesus—again.”

I wish each of you a blessed Lenten journey! May we all come to know and love Jesus more and more during this holy season!

PS: I thoroughly enjoyed my phone calls with the three winners of the contest two weeks ago: Bonnie (Yarmouth, ME), Susan (Pittsburgh, PA), and Maggie (Ventura, CA). I received so much from these “chats” with “real readers” of this blog that I hope to have another raffle one of these days!

I’m offering three videos for you. The first is Michael Card’s song, “The Nazarene.” I chose the version with the lyrics shown on a plain brown background so we can focus on the words… The second is a 19 minute interview with Bill Cain conducted by Robert Ellsberg, head of Orbis Books and author of All Saints. He also writes the “Blessed Among Us” reflection in Give Us this Day. Being in the presence of these two “Blessed” men—one a priest the other a layman…and both great writers—is well worth your 19 minutes… And for the third video, in view of current world events—especially in Ukraine—I’m offering St. Francis’ Prayer for Peace.

“The Nazarene”: The line that moves me is this: Jesus “was so unlike any other man and yet so much like me.”

Robert Ellsberg’s interview with Bill Cain, SJ:

As we pray for peace in our world, let us remember that peace begins with each one of us. Here is St. Francis’ prayer, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” sung (appropriately) by a young girl.

I welcome your comments below on anything related to today’s reflection…words… pictures…videos… and any additions. Thank you!

26 Responses

  1. Thank you for all the book suggestions Sr. Melannie; I always appreciate such suggestions. I plan to listen to the interview while I tackle cleaning my kitchen this morning.

  2. Thank you Sister! Always an inspiration on Monday mornings!
    I have been watching “The Chosen”-it is a free app you download and there are 2 seasons so far about the life of Jesus, played by the actor Jonathan Roumie. It makes Jesus very “real” for me. I highly recommend it!
    Also the Hallow app is doing a 40 day Lenten Challenge with Jonathan Roumie and Jeff Caviezel. Both actors who have playedJesus. It is free for Lent!
    Just some ideas.

    1. Elizabeth, Thank you for the recommendation of “The Chosen.” As you see below, other readers have recommended it too. A few of my friends are watching it also. So I decided to give it a try. I watched the first three episodes with a nun friend last evening and we both enjoyed it very much. So, I too will be watching this series during Lent. As you say, it’s a FREE app too! Thank you! Melannie

  3. Thank you Sister for your constant words of wisdom. Also, loved the music and the interview that you shared with us. Another Michael Card song for Lenten reflection is, “The Gentle Healer”. It is an acapella piece showing us the humanity of Jesus. Enjoyed our conversation. Lifted my spirits and filled me with joy. May you have a Blessed Lent.

  4. Thanks for the book suggestions and the videos. I’m going to check them all out so I’ll be up and ready for Lent.

    I used two books during Lent that really helped me get to know Jesus better. One is an older book, from the 70s, by Joseph Girzone. Portrait of Jesus gave me alot to think and pray about. Also, a book by Robert Dunne called 909 Days That Saved the World, which starts at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

    A great Lent for everyone! And please God, peace for the people of Ukraine.

  5. Thank you Sister, as always, I enjoyed your blog very much. I always get something to ponder. I also loved The Nazarene, And thank you for the book suggestions, I will be checking those out as well. I hope you have a blessed Lent. Peace to the people of Ukraine.

  6. Thank you for all you do to keep us closer to Jesus. I look forward to reading the books suggested. I just want to suggest The Chosen TV Series. When you mentioned “new insights into who Jesus is” and “new Gospel stories in new and imaginative ways,” I thought of The Chosen which can be watched for free via The Chosen free app; also on Amazon Prime. It’s a wonderful, thought-engaging show on a Jesus we rarely see: laughing, joking, a very human Jesus, very loving and delighting in the company of His followers. There are also online sites that have reflections and questions for study on each episode—a wonderful Lenten Jesus-centered show. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

  7. Dear Melannie, thank you ever so much for this blog. After reading your comments and the chapter entry from the book, I listened to the interview with Father Cain, S.J. And the Editor of Orbis books which you included. Went to Orbis who directed me to Amazon and tomorrow will receive my copy of the book. Know in my heart this is what I have been searching to use during this Lenten Season of 2022. God bless you for this Recommendation and so much else.

  8. Just saying hello on … Quinquagesima Monday? Ash Monday? Lundi Gras?

    I see Jesus most clearly in some of the folks I know. Clergy and laity. Believers and doubters. Christian and non-Christian. And so on. I think sometimes Jesus is most strikingly evident in folks whose lives may have been at one time, or may still be, not 100% “in line” with “all the rules.” (I know, my efforts at being “a good Catholic” or “a good Christian” or even “a good person” struggle to get a passing grade most days!) — but I don’t think that the Christian walk is all about report cards.

    Oh, golly, I know what I want to say but I’m foundering in my own caution. I think it was said best by the old Latin hymn which translates to: “Where charity and love are, there is God.” God’s not a curial Cardinal checking up on our orthodoxy, I suspect. God sees the heart, the Scriptures say. And I could just rattle off a list of my friends’ names who embody that charity and love superlatively: and some of those friends might have no use for Christianity as it was passed on to them, or as they heard it preached.

    God makes the most beautiful paintings with folks who “go outside the lines.” That might be my point, if I have one!

    Peace and light, all, and a blessed Lent to you, Sr Melannie, and to all your readers.

    1. Thomas, Well, that old Latin hymn says it well. Who could argue with those words? In a future blog I’m going to write about the human tendency to want to tame and control God (and Jesus)… I’m still praying for you regarding your recent fire… and I’m hoping you are finding the help you need to get back on your feet… Let me (us) know… Thanks again, Thomas! Melannie

  9. I too remember the Joseph Grizone “Joshua” books. I definitely enjoyed them.
    Another film series is called “The Chosen” it’s on Prime, but I believe it is also available as an app to view for free. This is a series of a few seasons that contains reflections of the lives and personalities of the people surrounding Jesus throughout his public ministry.
    I find these publications helpful for those of us who unlike St. Ignatius, don’t have the gift of imagination when reading scripture! Thank you for this suggestion.

    1. Dear Chris (friend and former student!), Once again, you’re teaching me. I watched three episodes of “The Chosen” last evening–because you and several other readers recommended it. Thanks so much! Melannie

  10. Good afternoon, Sr. Melannie…
    Good afternoon, all…

    That book sounds great! And after listening to the interview, I think I’ll make it my Lenten book. Thank you so much!

  11. Sr. Melannie, I very much appreciated this interview with Fr. Bill Cain, S.J., one of my brother Jesuits. He demonstrates so well why St. Ignatius emphasizes the use of the imagination when praying over the Gospels and the life of Jesus in order to come to know Jesus in his humanity! It’s the Grace of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises: To know Him more intimately, to love Him more ardently and to follow Him more closely. Thank you for sharing with us all these resources. Blessings on your Lenten journey!

    1. Yes, John, you can be proud of your “brother Jesuit” Bill Cain. Because he’s a playwright, the dialogue throughout the book really rings true… What a gift Ignatius left the church, “The Spiritual Exercises” that have helped so many people across the centuries to deepen their faith. Blessing on your Lent too! Melannie

  12. Thank you for the reading suggestions and for last week’s question, “so what”. I feel these to be a God send for my Lenten journey.

  13. Dear Sister Melannie,
    Once again, a time with you and the joy you bring. You leave my heart full.
    Thank you so much!
    Mary Nolan

  14. I really loved The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. Not sure his exact denomination, but he is Christian and approaches the life of Jesus writing as a journalist. Many inspiring, fresh and thought-provoking insights which I found very helpful. I would recommend any of his books, really. Especially What’s So Amazing about Grace. Have a grace-filled Lent, everyone!

  15. Dear Sr. Melannie,
    Thank you so much for the book suggestion, “The Diary of Jesus Christ”. We ordered it on Prime and we already have it. That plus Gregory Boyle’s book, “The Whole Language”, The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, are my Lenten reads.

  16. Thank you so much, as usual. I feel excited by my Lenten journey due to your suggestions.
    Will definitely get the book.
    Am praying for peace in Ukraine.
    Wishing you many blessings for the blessing you are to us.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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